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Tag: Puerto Rico

Humanitarian Aid

Update on our Puerto Rico Efforts

Our volunteer, Rasha, has just returned home from 2 weeks in Puerto Rico where she made connections on the island and distributed aid. Below is her report of exactly where she went, the situations she encountered, and the expenditures on food and supplies.

Cans of food at Sam’s Club

Breakdown of work:
12/07-12/12 (excluding 12/09): When doing work with Jose, our day would start at 6am and end usually between 4pm-5pm. We would drive up to various mountain towns, including the following places:

• Utuado
• Jayuya
• Yabucoa
• Tetuan
• Orocovis
• Arenas
• Guayama

The town of Yabucoa (and neighboring towns) was hit hard by Maria, as that is where the hurricane made landfall. Although Yabucoa is up in the mountains, the roads are not steep and it is more leveled compared to the region of Utuado. Upon arriving in Yabucoa, we drove throughout the town and spoke to locals. As with most of the mountain towns, the homes are spread out. We eventually decided to stop by a local church and spoke to a Mr. Raul, who is part of the church. He informed us that most are still without electricity and water, and some homes are still without proper roofs, including their own church. After speaking to him and the pastor, we were informed that about 100 families within the area are in need of basics, such as rice and beans. After finishing our time in the region, Jose and I drove to a Sams not too far from the town (the nearest Sams was still closed due to hurricane damage). After going through the aisles we decided the following would best benefit the needs described by the church:

• Rice
• Water
• Beans
• Milk

In addition, with remaining funds, we were able to also purchase cereal, bananas, tuna, and wipes. Distribution took place on 12/10.

The total cost for 100 families: $3,168.56 (the money to cover the entire cost came from both SCM funds as well as the personal donations I received)

The second mountain region we visited was Utuado as well as neighboring towns. On the first day out there, we realized how difficult some of the roads were on Jose’s car. We were informed prior that many landslides had occurred there after the hurricane, but did not realize the extent of the damage until we arrived. During our drive, we not only spoke to locals, but to other volunteer groups, as well as FEMA worker we ran in to. We were informed that the higher up we go, the roads would be in worse conditions. They all highly suggested we rent a Wrangler.

After receiving approval for the car rental from SCM, we drove to one rental place. We were informed that FEMA had rented every available truck/SUV and had a 6 month contract. Eventually we found another rental place and rented a Jeep Wrangler for 2 days. Upon returning on 12/11, we drove further up and spoke to locals, most of whom were elderly and some without any form of transportation. They informed us that they had received some help from local church groups, but mainly on the weekend. After several hours of driving and speaking to locals, we stopped by a local church. We were informed that about 85 families were still in need, with 5 having family members who were bed-ridden. We decided to return the next day (12/12) and distribute the same items we did in Yabucoa (excluding the tuna cans, as we didn’t have enough funds). In addition we also returned to homes higher up in the mountains and hand delivered the same items to 5 separate families.

The total cost for 85 families: $2,292.41

**12/09: Yasean, Omar, and I spent the morning (8am-12pm) volunteering with a local group known as “A La Mano poor Puerto Rico” handing out food bags and sandwiches to locals in a mountain region. Most of these homes were up very steep areas, and were better accessible on foot than by car. I also took the opportunity to speak to them about the work SCM had done in Greece and continues to do out in Jordan as well as locally in Seattle. I also expressed SCM’s interest in doing future work in PR. They were extremely pleased and thankful that SCM came to do work in PR and expressed interest in working together on future projects.

The morning of my return, I had passed by a medical clinic I had made contact with upon my arrival. I passed by their central office in To a Baja to hand over the samples SCM had sent me. Upon Jose and my arrival, they were kind enough to offer a tour of their facility and spoke to me about their work, and again expressed interest and thanks for SCM’s work out in PR. They go throughout the week, mainly on weekends, to provide free medical care.

Overall Summary:
As usual, the bigger NGOs seem to be quite absent in a lot of these areas, as expressed by the many locals, as well as local volunteers we spoke to. The mountainous regions seem to still be feeling the aftermath of Maria the most. Little work seems to have been done in those locations since the hurricane. And although the beginning of trip was full of bumps, it all eventually led me to some great contacts. The distributions we did seemed to have been the best decision we made, and in my opinion would be the best course of action to continue. For future work in PR, SCM needs to consider the following:

• Mode of transportation (When traveling to certain mountainous regions, such as Utuado, a Jeep/truck would be the best course of action)
• Translator
• Acquiring a Sams card under SCM’s name. Along with the physical card and hardcopy of a tax exempt letter, they will not charge taxes on purchases
• Upon deciding on a location for distribution, SCM needs to make sure that there is a reliable way to transfer ALL of the items to said location
• Best/most reliable source to contact regarding local distribution in any location is a local church
• Best way to save money on lodging is to use Airbnb. They have rooms, as well as entire apartments and houses. There are also locals renting out their apartments.
• When deciding on a future project, please keep in mind the distance(s) of areas for distributions, but more importantly the TRAFFIC because that can easily add a very long delay. (Jose and I worked around traffic times and directions).

Total Cost of ALL Distributions: $5,460.97


SCM is helping in Puerto Rico

As an organization that is dedicated to helping people affected by unrest and natural disaster, SCM could no longer stay on the sidelines as the people of Puerto Rico continued to suffer, months after hurricane Maria devastated much of their island. We want to help our fellow American citizens in any way we can, so we have volunteers in Puerto Rico providing humanitarian and medical aid where it is most needed. You can donate to help in Puerto Rico on our Donate page.

Our humanitarian volunteer is Rasha Abousalem, who led our educational programs in Greece in 2016. Dr. Peter Houck is our medical volunteer. We are helping them get supplies and supporting their efforts in Puerto Rico as much as we can.

We have had an update from Dr. Houck. He has been working in a hospital near San Juan, and while the hospital is up and running and treating people, it is running on generator power. He says the worry now is that the generators which are supposed to be for temporary emergency use will wear out and break down much sooner than they normally would due to their constant use as the main power supply for the hospital. Unfortunately SCM is not in a position to buy new industrial generators, but it does highlight the ongoing problems the people are facing on the island. We will be helping get some medications that are needed that he will distribute as we get them to him.

Rasha has sent us numerous photos and updates about what she has been doing since she has been there, and she is working with a local church group that has provided trucks and a bus to help with the distribution of food supplies she purchased. They purchased the following items for 100 families in the city of Yabucoa:

*20lb bag of rice
*Four (1 liter) water bottles
*One 6 pk can of beans
*Two boxes of milk
*Two cans of tuna
*One bag of bananas (2 hands)
*One family size bag of cereal
*One or Two pks of baby wipes

The next day, Rasha and her team visited 2 towns up and in the mountains, traveling by a rented Jeep. She says there have been a lot of landslides there, and still no power or water…. And no FEMA… only smaller groups, especially church volunteers who come primarily in the weekends. She will be doing one bigger distribution and a smaller one in 2 towns tomorrow. We will update you on that when we receive her report.

The photo gallery is of photos Rasha has sent us recently.